Hamilton County Commission

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann says talks with the city about shared services are going well and he's optimistic.

He says a public meeting is being scheduled between the board, the mayor and Cincinnati Council's Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee "to discuss opportunities for sharing and collaborating on services where we can achieve cost savings and improve efficiencies."

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Chris Monzel has taken the oath of office for his second term as a Hamilton County Commissioner.  With his wife and three children beside him, Monzel repeated the oath, as read by his mother.

And his fellow Republican, Greg Hartmann was elected to be the new president of the three-member commission for the next two years. 

Monzel said when he was first elected to the board in 2010, he said county government could not be operated “business as usual”.

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners gather Monday for their annual organizational meeting.

Greg Hartmann is expected to take over as board president.

He says says jobs, public safety, and dealing with Metropolitan Sewer District issues top his plans for 2015.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

It's official: Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up 5.5 percent next year.

Sewer rates have been increasing every year to pay for the multi-billion dollar federally mandated system overhaul. Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday approved MSD's 2015 budget despite fresh conflict with the city over the Lick Run project.

The county's utility oversight director says 5.5 percent breaks down this way:

The 2014 quarterly bill is $110.71 for a typical single family residential customer (or $442.84 per year)

Provided / Hamilton County Commission

Great American Ball Park is getting some new seats in time for the 2015 All Star Game.

About five years after the stadium was built, the Reds noticed some of the seats were breaking. The company that made them fixed some. A competing vender quoted $5 million to fix everything.

Instead, Hamilton County Stadium Director Joe Feldkamp says he's found two local companies that will do the job for less, and support another county initiative in the process.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Department

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department will get two new motorcycles after all.

Commissioners questioned the purchase request last week. But Greg Hartmann says he's satisfied with the Sheriff's response.

"I'm convinced an efficient and legitimate law enforcement purpose was established," says Hartmann.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Department

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department is responding to Commissioner Greg Hartmann's request for more information about its motorcycle patrol.

Last week, the department asked to buy two new Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Hartmann questioned the purchase given the county's tight budget. "What are they going to be used for? Additional patrols? Are additional staff going to be used to need them? These are not replacement motorcycles."

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Work is underway setting up a structure and oversight committee for the Union Terminal repair project. County Administrator Christian Sigman says "this is very similar to what the city and the county did with the Joint Banks Steering Committee."

Like The Banks, the Union Terminal project will be done under a public/private partnership. A project manager has not been hired yet.

In November, taxpayers approved a five year, quarter cent sales tax to fund the upgrades.
 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

As Hamilton County Commissioners are faced with raising sewer rates again, they're wondering if there's another way to find some relief for ratepayers.

Commission president Chris Monzel says "it's staggering, the amount of money that we have to put into this every year."

He's referring to the multi-billion dollar federal mandate to upgrade the county's sewer system.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann agrees. "Ratepayers are just getting absolutely soaked," he says.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

As expected, Hamilton County Commissioners approved the 2015 general fund budget Monday. The spending plan is much the same as 2014's.

Commission President Chris Monzel says "the public themselves are not going to see any hit to the services that they're receiving. So it should be no difference from this year to next year."

The $201.6 million budget keeps spending mostly flat. There's an increase for economic development and 9-1-1 dispatch fees will go up 5 percent. Police and fire agencies opposed that increase.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

  *Correction* The money for carrying costs on the Mt. Airy property will come from the county's Capital Budget NOT the General Fund budget.

When Hamilton County Commissioners pass a 2015 budget next week, it will likely look a lot like the one put forward Wednesday by the Republican majority. The consensus plan between Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel sets spending at $202 million, slightly above this year.

Monzel says the plan is balanced.

The Cincinnati Bengals are a step closer to getting that new scoreboard. Hamilton County is reviewing bids to replace the scoreboard and control room.

County finance specialist Erica Riehl expects the total will be about $10 million based on bids the county received.

The county is required to pay for the upgrade, however, under a bargain struck last year, the Bengals are chipping in $2.5 million.

The contract will likely be awarded by the end of the year.

Hamilton County's commissioners are tinkering with next year's budget.  But don't expect big changes to what's being spent this year.

"2015 is going to be another lean year in Hamilton County," says Commissioner Greg Hartmann.

The county administrator recommended creating a sales tax to balance the 2015 budget and build a new crime lab to replace the county's small outdated one.

Commissioners are now offering their alternatives.

The first of several public hearings on the proposed 2015 Hamilton County general fund budget is Thursday evening.

Commissioners will hold a meeting at the Green Township Trustee building at 6:30 p.m.

The county administrator is recommending a $210.7 million spending plan that calls for a quarter cent sales tax increase.

If Hamilton County voters approve a sales tax increase to repair Union Terminal, the work will be done under a public/private partnership.

Commissioners are directing the county administrator to begin drafting an agreement to set up the public-private partnership or P3.

Under this option, a private group like 3CDC would handle all the repair planning.

Hamilton County Commissioners are considering the administration's proposed budget for next year.

Most notably, County administrator Christian Sigman's $210.7 million proposal calls for a quarter cent sales tax increase.

As Hamilton County works on the 2015 budget, Commissioner Greg Hartmann is floating an idea he thinks could save money. He'd like to combine the city and county prosecutor offices.

"The city prosecutor's office makes absolutely no sense to me," says Hartmann. "It's an obvious overlap. When I was a county prosecutor I walked into that courtroom on my first day in municipal court and there was another city prosecutor in the same courtroom prosecuting the same crimes that just happened to have been committed in the city limits."

cars in a parking lot
WVXU

Later this fall, you'll no longer have to drive Downtown or to Forest Park to get a vehicle title. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler is opening another titling office in the Fields-Ertel area.

Winkler says the office will offer all kinds of vehicle titling and eventually passport processing.

Four years ago, Jim Tarbell, the former Cincinnati city council member and vice mayor, took on Republican Chris Monzel for a seat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.

His name was on the ballot as the endorsed Democratic Party candidate.

And he lost, taking 44 percent of the vote to Monzel’s 56 percent.

Well, Tarbell’s back.

And, this time, his name won’t be on the ballot.

Tarbell filed paperwork with the Hamilton County Board of Elections last Monday to run as a write-in candidate.

Former Cincinnati city council member and vice mayor Jim Tarbell is running as a write-in candidate for county commissioner against Republican incumbent Chris Monzel.

Tarbell filed the required form and paid an $80 fee today to become a write-in candidate, according to Sally Krisel, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Last week Hamilton County Commissioners decided not to put on the November ballot a requested quarter cent sales tax to repair Music Hall and Union Terminal. The move prompted a procedural question for some listeners, so I went looking for an answer.

Any time I report on a possible county sales or property tax, two questions tend to come up.

Sean Patrick Feeney said this afternoon he has rejected attempts by Democratic Party leaders to get him to step aside in the Hamilton County commission race for former mayor Charlie Luken.

"I'm committed to this; and I am going to continue on,'' said Feeney, a technology consultant who lives in North College Hill.

Earlier in the day, Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke said he wanted Feeney, a first-time candidate, to step aside so the Democrats could run former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken against Republican incumbent Chris Monzel.

The committee that reviews Hamilton County tax levies is recommending flat renewals for the Indigent Care and Family Services and Treatment levies.

The Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC) recommends keeping the Indigent Care levy on a three-year renewal cycle rather than a five-year term.

The Banks

Cincinnati and Hamilton County have cleared the way to bring General Electric's Global Operations Center to The Banks. 

City Council and the County Commission Monday morning approved several packages of incentives cementing the deal.  GE is expected to bring nearly 1,800 jobs with an average total payroll of $142 million per year.

The five-year lease includes five, 5-year renewal options.

Monday night is the first of two public hearings on Hamilton County's indigent care levy.

The levy is slated for the November ballot. It provides funding to the UC Medical Center, Children's Hospital and several other agencies to cover healthcare for the poor.

Sarah Ramsey

Two public hearings have been set to discuss the possibility of a sales tax to fix up Union Terminal and Music Hall. But Hamilton County Commissioners say that doesn't mean a sales or property tax is a certainty.

A task force is reviewing funding options for repairing the aging landmarks. That group will present its recommendations June 23.

However, Commissioner Greg Hartmann says Wednesday was the last commission meeting before a state deadline to set public hearings ahead of the November election.  

The City of Cincinnati is objecting to allegations levied by Hamilton County regarding the management of the Metropolitan Sewer District.

In a letter from interim city manager Scott Stiles to county administrator Christian Sigman, the city says it is "extremely disappointed" by the county's "adversarial approach."

Hamilton County Commissioners say cost overruns on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects are too high and are indicating leadership is the problem.

In other words: MSD director Tony Parrott needs to go.

In a letter to interim Cincinnati city manager Scott Stiles, Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says "major cost overruns within several federal Consent Decree projects is merely a symptom of larger management issues within MSD."

Hamilton County administrators are continuing the process to take over ownership of the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital site.

Assistant County Administrator Jeff Aluotto says boundary, environmental and other surveys are nearly complete.

"We are looking to do this right," says Aluotto. "We're looking to do this in a measured way. In a prudent way. This is less from our perspective about what is out there in 2015 and 2016 and more about how we position this to be a strategic center for county government in 2020, 2025, 2030, moving out."

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Hamilton County and the Bengals have a reached a deal that could pave the way for luring General Electric to the Banks.

The county announced Thursday the Bengals have agreed to waive height restrictions that would've halted a office space large enough to house General Electric's new Southwest Ohio Global Operations headquarters and a planned apartment building in exchange for six items.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann says the deal will allow the county and city to aggressively bid for GE.

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